The Mancunion

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Review: Don Jon

Robbie went to an advance screening courtesy of Experience 12

By

 Don Jon is a film which many young men will likely find strikes a cord. I certainly felt surprisingly moved by the film even if I was equally surprised by it’s lack of ambition. But for a directorial debut, Joseph Gordon Levitt leads with impressive depth and confidence.  Both behind and in front of the character he is unafraid to portray the ugly side of porn addiction. Levitt explores our modern obsession with pornography with a frankness and openness you might not expect from a leading Hollywood actor, without veering into territory too dark to make you uncomfortable, even if at times you wish he would.

    The titular Jon is a young New Jersey lad whose priorities are his body, his pad, his ride, his family, his church, his boys, his girls and his porn. The final one proving to be highly detrimental to his relationship with the one which precedes it.  As we are told by Jon’s confident narration, whilst he loves sleeping with beautiful women, nothing compares with the sexual gratification he gets from watching porn. This dilemma essentially forms the film’s central conflict- can Jon ever enjoy sex whilst he is so invested in the make believe sex online.

   When the beautiful Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) catches Jon’s eager eye, his addiction to porn is pushed to crisis point. With the most beautiful women in the world as his girlfriend, can he abandon the porn for good? And Johansson really is beautiful. Through the frequent lingering shots of Johansson generally pleasing features in a variety of tight-fitting clothing, we are constantly reminded of just how physically attractive Barbara is, and just how depraved Jon’s addiction is that he needs porn to get his rocks off. The trouble with this is that in that trying to illustrate the extent of society’s unhealthy relationship with pornography, Levitt pushes everything to the Nth degree including the female characters. The women who Jon sleeps with, including Johansson, are so unrealistically beautiful that you sense that Levitt has chosen these actresses to demonstrate just how far porn has warped our ability to connect with real beauty. I couldn’t help but feel the film’s message may have been better served had some of these women been more ‘normal’ looking, and the tragedy of Jon’s addiction could have more impact.

   These flaws are somewhat made up for by the appearance of Esther (Julianne Moore) who looks to try and and show Jon that loving sex can be far more rewarding than the virtual sex on his laptop which has caused the breakdown of his relationship with Barbara. If this sounds hokey and preachy- don’t worry, it isn’t. The scenes between Jon and Esther are the most tender and endearing and add some depth to Levitt’s character which lacks up until that point. Even if their relationship does ultimately steer the film into the more predictable rom-com trappings, Don Jon’s bravery in tackling a subject thus far unexplored in mainstream films, and a highly enjoyable performance from Levitt, make it well worth the price of admission.

★★★